Stitches: A Memoir by David Small
BIBLIO: 2009, W.W. Norton & Company., Ages 14 to 18.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter
FORMAT: Graphic Novel
This graphic novel is the true recollection of the author-illustrator. Set in his childhood in Detroit Small shows the reader what shaped him as a person. It starts by explaining that he was a very sickly baby and he got lots of x-rays. It jumps ahead to when he’s six years old and how his house is always silent. No one speaks to each other and everyone is terse and keeps to themselves, always miserable. The family goes to the hospital a lot because David’s father works there. When he and his mother visit his grandmother and step-grandfather, affectionately called Papa John, we get a glimpse at what his stern mother dealt with and gain some perspective into her personality. Some more time passes until he is eleven. David gets a large cyst on his neck examined, which needs to be removed. But living in the cruel household that he did, it took three and a half years to schedule a surgery and his cyst grows disgustingly large. Upon removal the boy discovers he can’t talk because in addition to the growth the surgeon removes his thyroid and part of his vocal cords rendering him speechless. Desolate with his loss, David goes through terrible stages of grief, military school, and seeking out psychological help. Moving out at the age of sixteen, he begins his journey to his own life by finding a voice in his artwork. The art in this book is very macabre and shadowy- eliciting emotions of cruelty, intimidation, depression, and mystery. There is plenty of symbolism and repetition to examine deeply. The people are all skeletal, frightening, and their eyes are intense. Everything has a dark twist to it and the sketches are sparse with background clutter but incredibly detailed. Frequently, Small alludes to Alice in Wonderland in his dreams and illustrations, suggesting his need for its escapist nature. Altogether a very powerful book with a lot of room for questions. I would recommend this graphic novel for fourteen and up, because of the disturbing content and some pg-13 nudity.